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Man sets self afire outside White House

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A man set himself on fire about 2 p.m. Monday on Pennsylvania Avenue outside the White House.
The man, whose identity and condition have not been released, was taken to a hospital for treatment.

"Members of the uniformed Secret Service responded and administered first aid to the individual until D.C. fire and EMS arrived," said Secret Service public relations spokesman Jonathan Cherry. "The individual has been transported to the burn unit at Medstar at the Washington Hospital Center. An investigation is currently under way."

The investigation is being conducted by U.S. Park Police, whose jurisdiction includes the property directly outside the fence surrounding the White House.

President Bush went about his regular schedule during and after the incident, said White House spokesman Trent Duffy.

One witness said the man approached a security checkpoint building at the northwest gate of the White House and showed a writing pad with the word "urgent" written on it. When a uniformed Secret Service guard asked if he could help him, the man began walking along the fence toward the guard.

Another witness near the scene heard the unidentified man yelling in Arabic, "God is great," several times. And several witnesses said a bag the man was carrying started burning, pouring out thick black smoke that enveloped him.

The man appeared to fall face forward on the ground in front of the gate security building, the witnesses said, and uniformed Secret Service agents rushed to put out the flames with a fire extinguisher.

The section of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House was cordoned off. Secret Service agents evacuated the immediate area in front of the White House, including the North Lawn area used by television organizations and other journalists, while initial examinations of the man and his bag were conducted.

homepage: homepage: http://edition.cnn.com/2004/US/11/15/man.afire/

Terror Informant Ignites Himself Near White House 16.Nov.2004 02:58

Caryle Murphy and Del Quentin Wilber, Washington Post

Terror Informant Ignites Himself Near White House
Yemeni Was Upset at Treatment by FBI

By Caryle Murphy and Del Quentin Wilber
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, November 16, 2004; Page A01

A Falls Church man who worked as a federal informant on terrorism set himself on fire in front of the White House yesterday, hours after announcing his suicide attempt and citing his growing despondency over how the FBI managed his case.

Mohamed Alanssi, 52, approached the northwest guardhouse on Pennsylvania Avenue about 2:05 p.m. and asked the security detail to deliver a note to President Bush. When uniformed Secret Service officers turned him away, he stepped about 15 feet from the guard post and used a lighter to ignite his jacket, according to the U.S. Park Police.

Secret Service officers wrestled him to the ground and doused the flames with fire extinguishers. Alanssi was taken to Washington Hospital Center, where he was listed in critical condition with burns over about 30 percent of his body, authorities said.

Alanssi, who is from Yemen and also uses the name Mohamed Alhadrami, recently discussed his work as a federal informant in a series of interviews with The Washington Post. Yesterday morning, he informed the newspaper by faxed letter and by telephone that he was going to "burn my body at unexpected place." He also sent a copy of a letter he said he had faxed to the FBI agent in New York who is handling his case. The Post alerted the agent and provided a copy of the letter.

In two telephone conversations yesterday, Alanssi told a Post reporter that he would provide 10 minutes' notice of his suicide attempt and that only then would he reveal the location. When he called a third time, Alanssi said he had poured gasoline and would be setting himself on fire in two minutes, not 10, and it would take place near the White House. The newspaper informed D.C. police, who notified the special operations unit and the U.S. Park Police, which has jurisdiction over Lafayette Square.

In the recent interviews, Alanssi expressed anguish over not being able to visit his family in Yemen. He said that he suffers from diabetes and heart problems and that his wife is seriously ill with stomach cancer. Alanssi said he could not travel to his native country because he has no money and because the FBI, which is expecting him to testify at a terrorism trial in New York, was keeping his Yemeni passport.

"I must travel to Yemen to see my sick wife (stomac cancer) and my family before I testify at the court or any other places," Alanssi wrote FBI agent Robert Fuller in New York, according to the copy he provided The Post yesterday. "Why you don't care about my life and my family's life? Once I testify my family will be killed in Yemen, me too I will be dead man."

The FBI declined to comment on Alanssi's identity or his claims of working with the bureau. "We don't have a policy on revealing who is a cooperator or informing witness," said Joe Valiquette, an FBI spokesman in New York. The U.S. attorney's office in the eastern district of New York, which is prosecuting the terrorism-related trial in January, also declined to comment.

Alanssi, who described himself as a once-successful businessman in Yemen, also was upset with the FBI because he said agents had not kept promises they made to secure his cooperation. Those promises included a large, but unspecified, amount of money, eventual U.S. citizenship and protection of his identity, he said.

Alanssi said that he went to the FBI in New York shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and offered information on alleged financers of al Qaeda working in Yemen. He said he quickly became a major informant for the FBI, on occasion traveling to Yemen to gather intelligence.

He volunteered that the FBI paid him $100,000 in 2003. But he said he had been expecting much more because he said some agents told him he would "be a millionaire." And although he was promised permanent residency in this country, he said, he has not received it.

Alanssi said he did not have enough money to pay his medical bills or buy his prescription drugs. He said he recently underwent an operation at a Fairfax hospital to unclog his arteries.

"It is my big mistake that I have cooperated with FBI," he said in a recent interview. "The FBI have already destroyed my life and my family's life and made us in a very danger position . . . I am not crazy to destroy my life and my family's life to get $100,000," he said.

Alanssi also alleged that the FBI had failed to adequately protect his role in a sting operation conducted in Germany in January 2003. That led to the arrest of Mohammed Ali Hassan Al Moayad, a Yemeni cleric who is slated to go on trial Jan. 10 in New York on charges of providing material support to al Qaeda.

Attorney General John D. Ashcroft told the Senate Judiciary Committee in March 2003 that Moayad had "boasted jihad was his field and trumpeted his involvement in providing money, recruits and supplies to al Qaeda, Hamas and other terrorist groups."

Alanssi said he played an important role in the success of that sting operation by persuading Moayad to travel from Yemen to Frankfurt, where the undercover investigation was carried out. Moayad allegedly boasted -- while U.S. and German agents taped the encounter -- of sending money and recruits to al Qaeda.

In a Jan. 5, 2003, affidavit supporting Moayad's arrest warrant, Fuller said that he had been working with an informant since November 2001. He described him as a Yemeni citizen who had provided reliable information and who had "contributed, in part, to the arrests of 20 individuals and the seizure of over $1 million."

Alanssi's identity was leaked, along with details of his role, and the case was the subject of a Washington Post story in 2003 and accounts in the Yemeni press. As a result, Alanssi said, his family had been harassed and threatened in Yemen, where Moayad, 55, is a prominent leader in Islamist circles.

A short, stocky man, Alanssi said that he was in the United States on a visitor's visa seeking business opportunities when the 2001 terrorist attacks took place. He said that he worked for the U.S. Embassy in Yemen in the mid-1970s and that he was angered by the attacks because he likes Americans.

He also saw an opportunity, he said, to pursue his dream of making it in business in this country.

In recent interviews with The Post, Alanssi, who has six children, sometimes was visibly upset, once breaking down in sobs.

In the letter faxed to The Post, Alanssi wrote: "I would like to tell all American People that I love them and I am proud to be a good friend for all American People, and I am asking them: Do you think what FBI did to me is it FARE or UNFAIR."

The incident rattled police officers and passersby outside the White House, where Pennsylvania Avenue was reopened to pedestrians recently. John and Beverly Beers, both 48, had just arrived from DeLand, Fla., and were out for a walk.

"I heard someone screaming," Beverly Beers said. "I saw flames, really quick, because they put them out. And then he was laying on the ground. . . . I just figured it was a person trying to get attention."

Staff writers David Cho, Maureen Fan and Susan Schmidt contributed to this report.